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Young Glen Oaks violinist hits right note at Knicks game

Unlike any typical ninth-grader, Michael is an accomplished violinist who began reading music when he was 3 and, after receiving a violin from his grandfather as a Christmas gift, began studying at Queens College Aaron Copland Preparatory Studies of Music when he was 4.The now 13-year-old Glen Oaks native won a competition on Nov. 9 at a New York Knicks' half-time show at Madison Square Garden that he considered a warmup."It was a tune-up, there was no pressure," said Michael. "They wanted something showy."Michael said he played the first 90 seconds of Polish composer Henryk Wieniawski's "Scherzo-Tarantelle," a piece he was going to play at a more traditional concert in a few days, and that he enjoyed playing for the packed house."I liked it more than the smaller crowds," said Michael.The response from the Knicks' faithful was enough for Michael to win the competition and be invited back for a finalist competition."It sounded like (the Knicks) won the championship," said Michael's father, Michael Mandrin Sr. ,who plays piano with his son while they practice in their home.Michael, sporting a Knicks sweatshirt, was quick to add that it also happened to be the Knicks' first win of the season.Most 13-year-old violinists would consider playing in front of 19,000 basketball fans the highlight of their careers, but again Michael is not your average 13-year-old.His resume reads like a seasoned concert player's, with appearances at the 92nd Street YMCA, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Lincoln Center, and The Landmark Theater in Port Washington. He is currently enrolled at Hunter College High School in Manhattan where he is a member of the senior orchestra and chamber orchestra and has been in the first violin section of the young Symphonic Ensemble since the age of 9.As he played Wieniawski's "Scherzo-Tarantelle" in his home, the expressions on Michael's face ranged from an ear-to-ear grin, to a look of complete concentration, to disappointment when he missed the final note."I always miss that one," said Michael, who admitted he had not practiced the piece since the Knicks game. Michael said he normally practices two to three hours a day, but sometimes misses a day because of other obligations, during baseball season or when he is taking Isshin-ryu Karate for which he has earned a black belt.Michael said his dream could be to play as a soloist in front of the New York Philharmonic, but he said he would rather be a starting pitcher on opening day for the Yankees because "it's more rare."Reach reporter Peter A. Sutters Jr. by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300 Ext. 173.

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